Kaikoura’s Art Deco Mayfair cinema survives New Zealand earthquake

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Day and Date Down Under

New Zealand has a reputation for earthquakes and sheep, but lately it is the earthquakes that have taken center stage. A major earthquake near the coastal town of Kaikoura (famous for lobsters) caused damage as far away as New Zealand's capital of Wellington. Kaikoura has a community-run 1930s Art Deco cinema, The Mayfair. This venue has been unaffected and continues to show movies nightly, while Wellington has been less lucky. Readings in the city and Queensgate in Lower Hutt have been temporarily closed but are expected to open reasonably quickly.

Mel Gibson swept the Australian film awards (the AACTAs) with his film Hacksaw Ridge, winning Best Film, Best Director and six other awards including Best Actor for Andrew Garfield.

The 1976 movie Storm Boy, about a young boy and a pelican, was a major success Down Under and received a release in many other territories. It was one of the major films in the new renaissance of Australian cinema in the 1970s and won Best Film at the 1977 Australian Film Awards. A 40th-anniversary digital restoration has brought the film to new audiences with festival screenings and new availability. Now comes news that Ambience Entertainment is planning a new, reimagined film for production in 2017. We look forward to this.

Reading Cinemas has three complexes in Queensland and is about to get its fourth, the first for the company in the state capital (and Australia's third-largest city), Brisbane. Reading first submitted plans for a cinema complex at Newmarket Village in 2005, but was knocked back by the council. A shopping center and car park were built on part of the land in the first stage of the development, but now Reading finally has approval for the site and has started building an A$28 million eight-plex plus new food and beverage retail and additional car parking. The complex aims to open by the start of summer Down Under in November 2017.

Drive-ins in Australia are coming to new locations—rooftop car parks. The Backlot Rooftop twin drive-in is set to be built on top of a car park in the Melbourne inner-city suburb of Docklands. The drive-in will operate two sessions a night (8:30 and 10:30 p.m.) and opened on Boxing Day 2016 with prices of A$15 for walk-in tickets and A$50 for cars, irrespective of how many are in the vehicle. Walk-in patrons will utilize a 50-seat "Blue deck." The company is also looking at sites in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Tony Ianiro, one of five partners in the project, says that the first rooftop drive-in will hold around 65 cars for each screen. He added that their main target will be the 18 to 35-year-old market, but they will also look at the viability of family films as well.

Melbourne's Pentridge Prison housed some of Australia's toughest and most notorious prisoners, but in a few years time they are more likely to be on the screen than in the prison. The prison closed down a few years ago and is to be redeveloped into apartments, offices, retail and a new cinema. Some of the buildings are being restored for the new precinct, but the 15-screen cinema complex will be in a new building. Palace Cinemas, which has been on a building spree recently (see our past columns), will operate the new complex when it is completed in mid-2019.

Australian producer Sue Milliken received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent Australian Movie Convention on the Gold Coast this year. For 20 years she has wanted to produce a film based on the novel The Women in Black by Madeleine St John. Written in 1993, the book focuses on tensions between workers in a the ladies clothes department of a large department store in Sydney in the 1960s. Milliken and director Bruce Beresford could never get financing for the film, as it was not thought to be commercial enough. Last year a stage musical, Ladies in Black, based on the book, debuted in Queensland to strong acclaim, and it is now touring Australia. This success, as well as the success of The Dressmaker with Kate Winslet, has led to a new interest in the book, and it looks like Milliken and Beresford will finally get to make their long-cherished film sometime in 2017. The film will take the same name as the musical, as it is thought to be a much lighter title and closer to the mood of the script than The Women In Black. The film will not be a musical.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.